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Scene, Sunday, May 27, 2007

Because tomorrow is Memorial Day, I’m asking you to take a moment and read the following lines from a poem written by Moina Michael. She is the person who came up with the idea to wear red poppies in honor of those who have died in our nation’s service.

We cherish too, the Poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies.

Now, let the words sink in for a moment and think of all those white gravestones lined up in Arlington National Cemetery. More than 300,000 people are buried there.

I find it hard to think about Arlington National Cemetery without wondering how many graves will be dug next week or the next week or the next. But Memorial Day is not for speculation or politics; it is a day to honor heroes.

Growing up, Memorial Day meant a day off from school, the last official holiday before summer vacation. I knew the real reason for the holiday, but didn’t spend nearly as much time thinking about it as I do now.

My appreciation for why we observe Memorial Day has increased over the years, especially after marrying a Marine.

Multiple visits to Arlington National Cemetery and the battlefields of Gettysburg have also deepened my appreciation of those who gave their lives for our country.

The sheer number of how many Americans have served and died still overwhelms me. The gravestones at Arlington seem to go on forever.

There are even more veterans, buried in private cemeteries and family plots across the country.

Many of the men and women who will be honored tomorrow never had the chance to return to American soil for burial. Whether lost at sea or missing in action, they, too, must be remembered.

I recently read a magazine article that described a young Marine’s life before he enlisted in the Marines and left for Iraq. It went on to describe how his mother has dealt with the grief of losing her son.

She visits his gravesite weekly at Arlington, the article said.

As I read on, a date caught my eye. Her son had joined the Marines in 2003, when Ron was stationed at the recruit depot in San Diego.

I can still picture those young recruits marching around, being yelled at by drill instructors and then proudly making it to graduation day.

How many of them have already given the ultimate sacrifice for their country? I don’t want to know.

Since it was first observed, Memorial Day has been a time when the voices of our nation’s fallen heroes cry out to be heard. When our nation is at war, the voices seem to cry out even louder.

Tomorrow is their day; we must pause and reflect on those who gave all.

I, personally, will say a prayer of thanks for each and every one of them. Then, I will pray for the grieving families our most recent heroes have left behind.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 16 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or find the Zichs online at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.

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